Sam Berns: Funeral held for inspirational teenager with an ageing disorder

Well-wishers queued outside to pay their respects at the temple where the 17-year-old was laid to rest

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The Independent Online

17-year-old Sam Berns, who lived with a rare genetic condition that accelerates the ageing process, has been laid to rest in his home-city of Boston, US.

Berns died on Friday after complications from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, commonly known as progeria. His death was confirmed by the Progeria Research Foundation, that was established by his parents.

A private funeral was held on Tuesday morning at Temple Israel in Sharon, Massachusetts.

The temple’s car park filled up quickly and a large line of people wanting to pay their respects to Berns formed outside, according to local news outlet Foxborough Patch

Diagnosed with progeria at 22 months, Berns outlived the 13-years expected for suffers of the disease.

Those with the condition experience musculoskeletal degeneration, cardiovascular problems and other symptoms associated with ageing.

His parents, doctors Leslie Gordon and Scott Berns, founded their non-profit organisation to provide more information and research on the condition which is little understood.

Their work was featured in the US documentary Life According to Sam, which brought greater attention to the condition.


However, the teenager did not let the disease define him, and encouraged others to live with a positive mentality, something he stressed during his talk at the TEDxMidAtlantic conference last autumn. 

He told the audience that while he was promoting his programme he was asked by a journalist: “What is the most important thing people should know about you?” to which he replied “I have a very happy life.”

“Even though there are many obstacles in my life, with a lot of them being created by progeria, I don’t want people to feel bad for me. I don’t think about these obstacles all the time and I’m able to overcome most of them anyway,” he said.

He concluded the talk by saying: “All in all I don’t waste energy feeling bad for myself, I surround myself with people that I want to be with, and I keep moving forward.

"So with this philoshopy I hope that all of you, regardless of your obstacles, can have a very happy life as well.”

Owner of the New England Patriots American football team, Robert Kraft, mourned Berns’ death.

He said that he had invited the teen to be the team's honorary captain for Saturday night’s playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts and was looking forward to spending time with the teenager and his family.

“I loved Sam Berns and am richer for having known him,” Kraft said in a statement on Saturday.

Berns, a sports fan who was invited to a Patriots practice in October, gave the players an impromptu motivational speech, the Boston Globe reported.

When asked to name his favorite player, he said he didn't have one because it takes a team to succeed.